Fort Pond Bay
New-York Province and the American Revolution
Fort Pond Bay was first listed by name in a 1655 map published in 1680 by John Scott which makes note of a Montaukett Native-American fort on its banks.
Early settlers in the area raised cattle and sheep on the bluffs above the bay. During the American Revolutionary War during the Siege of Boston British warships sailed into the bay in 1775. Local militia under Capt. John Dayton, feigned they had more men than they had, turning their coats inside out as they marched back and forth on top of a high hill to the south. The tactic is called Dayton's Ruse.
Long Island was occupied throughout the war and the bay was used by the British for their blockade of Connecticut. In 1781 the HMS Culloden (1776) ran aground while pursuing a French frigate during a January storm. The ship, which survived the initial ground hit a rock and had to be scuttled in the bay at Culloden Point and burned with its canons thrown overboard. Its debris field and wreck site is now the only underwater park on Long Island.
In the late 18th century, the small fishing village of Montauk was established at the southeast corner of the bay.
The 19th century and today
In 1839 the Amistad anchored in bay (also at Culloden Point) when the surviving crew tried to convince their revolted slave captors that they had returned to Africa as they went for provisions in the village of Montauk. The ship was seized by the USS Washington (1837) in the bay.
In the 1890s, Austin Corbin extended the Long Island Rail Road from Bridgehampton, New York to the Montauk fishing village (the line extension was called the Fort Pond Railway). His friend Arthur Bensen purchased 10,000 acres (40 km²) of Montaukett land around the village and the LIRR began advertising that it could cut a day off ship travel by docking in Montauk and taking the train rather than going to New York. Corbin built a steel pier into pond for the overseas ships (even as the Corps of Engineers continued to caution against using the bay because of rocks.
The dream was never to materialize and the U.S. Army bought the land for Camp Wikoff. Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were to come by transport into the bay following the Spanish-American War at the camp to be quarantined over concerns about Yellow Fever.
The fishing village was obliterated in the storm of the Great Hurricane of 1938. The Navy took over the area for a seaplane and dirigible base during World War II (the dock is still in use). The fishing village was moved a mile south closer to the Atlantic Ocean.
During the years after World War II, the bay ceased to be used by most boats because of flooding and rocks. Boats now dock in the dredged Lake Montauk. In the 1960s the bluffs above the bay were used to build Leisurama homes as inexpensive second homes that had been inspired by the Kitchen Debate between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev.